« AnteriorContinua »
ual or religious unity, and not only living quietly near one another) in the bond of peace, notwithstanding differences in opinions.
1. There is no one thing that is oftener, nor so often commarded, inculcated, intreated, and prayed for, by our Saviour and his Apostles, than that all Christians should be one, and as members of the same body; and, on the other side, no sin that is more severely forbidden, represented as more mischievous, nor inore terribly threatened, than divisions, schisms, separations, and whatsoever breaks the said unity. St. Paul does not only reckon such things as undoubted signs of a carnal mind (1 Cor. iii. 3 and 4) but also when he gives a roll or catalogue of the sins which are certainly damning, which they that practise, shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. v. 19, 20, 21) such as adultery, drunkenness, &c. he reckons, among the rest, otéget kai aipecats, which we render seditions, heresies which are the names which he commonly gives to divisions. Since his time, indeed, the latter of those words has been used to denote false doctrines in the fundamentals of faith; but he never means any thing else by it but parties, factions, sects, or divisions. One plain instance in what sense he takes it, is in 1 Cor. xi. 18 and 19; where what are called divisions in one verse, are called heresies in the other. Let any one read this text for the meaning of the word, and then let him turn back again to Gal. v. 19, where adultery, murder, and heresies, are declared-subject to the same condemnation, of'exclusion from God's kingdom.
The'sinfulness of schism is so plainly, fully, and frequently set forth by our Saviour and his Apostles, that there are no Christian writers or teachers of any church whatever, but what do, if they are required to speak, own that it is in its nature a mortal sin: even the leaders of schismatical congregations dare not deny it; if they did, they would be convicted of denying plain Scripture. But; as Archbishop Tillotson does somewhere observe of the Popish teachers, that, though they do ein in their writings and disputes with the Protes
tants, that repentance and amendinent of life is necessary to the forgiveness of sins, yet, in their discourses to their people, they say so much of confession to a priest, &c. and so little of amendment of life, that the people think all of the one, and little of the other ; so there are several teachers who, among all the sins that they forewarn their people of, do so seldom preach against schism and division, so seldom quote those places of Scripture that set forth the guilt of it (and when they do, do touch that point so tenderly) that the people, if they do not trust their own eyes in reading God's word, and taking it altogether, are apt 10 forget that schism is any sin at all; or at inost, they conceive of it as of a little one. All the Christians near our Saviour's time had a quite contrary sentiniert; they; when they gathered up into one short draught, or creed, the most fundamental and necessary truths that they were to hold, put in this for one : I believe in the holy Catholic Church, and the communion of saints; i. e. I own the universal church, and that all Christians in it ought to hold communion one with another; for the word saints, is in Scripture, and all other old Christian books, used as another word for Christians; and the communion of saints, means nothing else in the Creed but the communion of Christians. He then that believes other things to be duties, and this to be none, ought, when he repeats the Creed, to say, I believe all the rest of it; but I do not own the communion of saints as any article of Christian faith.
2. Whereas the sinfulness of schism, in general, will not bear a dispute ; but all people that separate, do, if they be forced to speak, own, as I said, schism to be a great sin'; but do say, withal, their separation is not schisın in the Scripture sense, because the church from which they have separated, is such as from which one ought to separate; and whereas the reason that is usually given of the necessity of a separation of one fiom another, is, that one party holds tenets and opinions which the other cannot assent to, or administers sone
of the divine offices in such ways as the other does not approve,, but takes the opinions to be errors, and the said administrations to be grounded on those errors. The thing to be enquired is, Whether these opinions, which are judged to be errors, be such as do overthrow the foundation of Christian faith? for if they be such, the plea must be allowed. False doctrines in the funa. damentals of religion, do put a bar to our communion with those that teach them.
But if they be not such, we have a plain direction and order from St. Paul to bear with one another; to receive one another to communion, notwithstanding differences in them, and not to judge or despise one another for them. He has a Discourse purposely on this subject; it begins Rom. xiv. li he continues it through all that chapter, and to ver. 8 of the next. He instances in men holding contrary sides in the disputes which trou. bled the church at that time. He both begins and ends that Discourse with a positive command that they res ceive one another, notwithstanding them; and he plainly. ineans (as whoever reads the whole place will observe) to communion with them as brethren, and to live in peace and quietness with one another; which last they were to do with the Heathens their neighbours.
He orders those of them that were positive, and sure that their opinion was the right, to content themselves with thạt full persuasion of their own mind, and to take it for granted that they are not bound to bring all the rest over to their opinion, nor yet to forsake their communion if they will not so be brought, ver. 22. Hast thou faith (faith here signifies that full persuasion of, mind, mentioned before at ver. 5) have it to thyself before God. He would have them be so modest, as to think, at the same time, that others as good as they, might yet continue of the other opinion.
He shews.(chap. xv. 5, and 6) that they may, notvithstanding these differences, with one mind and one mouth glorify God, And whereas he prays there that they may be (as we translate it in English) like-minded que toward another; those phrases of like-minded and
öne mind, do not import that they that thus join in glórifying God, must of necessity be all of one opinion in disputable matters; for it has been all along his scope to sew that they might well enough do that, though each did keep his several opinion in those things; but those phrases denote only that they shonld do it unanimously (which is the proper rendering of the word) duobvpadov, and that which St. Paul generally means by the word avro qpoveīv, as Bishop Stillingfieet has shewn by instances ; and they might be unanimous in glorifying God, though they were not all of a mind as to meats, days, &c. since in the main matters thiey were all of a mind.
And though St. Paul there do instance only in the disputes about meats, and drinks, and days, &c. yet the tenor of his discourse, and the reasons be gives against separating for them, do reach to all differences that are not fundamental; for that which he says The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, &c. is applicable to any opinions that are not of the foundation; the kingdom of God, or substance of religioni, does not consist in such things ; and, as he
says, For meat, destroy not the work of God, say
of such opinions, Do not; for such things destroy the unity which Christ has made so essential to his church. But it is otherwise of the fundamental articles of our faith; for in them the kingdom of God does consist. If any one do hold or practise idolatry, or the worship of any but the true God, or do deny the divinity of Christ, or his death for our sins, or the necessity of repentance and a good life, or the belief of the resurrection and judgment to come, the Apostle would never have bid us receive such, or hold communion with them.'
But there are, besides those that hold such doctrines pernicious to the foundation, abundance of Christians that hold the same faith in all fundamental points, who do yet
live in divisions and separation, disowning and
* Unreasonableness of Separation, part 2, sec. 19.
ręņouncing one another's communion. It is pity but these should be reduced to the unity which Christ's body requires.
Now, there is no other way in the world to effect this, but only that which the Apostle here prescribes, viz. That they receive one another, notwithstanding the different opinions they may bold about lesser matters. There have other ways been tried, ways of human policy ; but all with wretched success; they have been tried with so much obstinacy, as almost to ruin the church.
The Church of Rome has tried to reduce all men to unity, by forcing them to be all of one opinion, and to submit their judgments to her dictates ; some of which are things which the Scripture teaches not; and some directly contrary to it. They use to this purpose, first, disputations; and when that will not do, then fire and faggot, or other cruelties. We have lived to see what tyrannous, unchristian, and bloody work a neighbour prince has made to bring all his subjects to be of one religion (as he calls it) that is, all of one opinion in all things delivered by that church, which has been far from limiting herself to fundamental articles; and we have seen the event; he has made soine hypocrites and apostates, who do, upon all occasions, shew the regret of their conscience; some refugees, and some martyrs. This way, therefore, of bringing people to glorifying God unanimously, by drawing up a set of particular opinions, and forcing all men to subscribe to them, is no successful way; it requires of men what the Scripture never requires ; it has filled the world with blood and enmity, and made Christendom a shambles. St. Paul, with all his apostolical authority, does not, we see, require it; but says, In such things let each be fully persuaded in his own mind (meaning, till one by reason do convince the other, or be convinced by himn); and in the mean time receive and own one another as brethren,
Another way that has been tried, is quite on the contrary, and runs to the other extreme. It is this ::